Mental Illness Isn’t a Personal Issue. It’s a Social One.
It’s funny. When someone becomes anxious or depressed, we want them to go to a counselor to sort themselves out. It’s their problem. Only mental illness isn’t a personal issue. It’s a social one.
In some cases, this means that the person who is labeled “mentally ill” is having a completely rational response to an irrational situation. For example, let’s say a child has to tip toe around in the morning to get a shower and breakfast because he knows that waking dad up could mean getting screamed at or hit. When that same child beats someone else up at school or sprays graffiti on a bridge, it could be his way of acting out his anger, crying for help, or trying to have some control over his life.
If you take away the unhealthy, absentee parenting, the behavior is likely to go away.
If you add a warm, stable grandparent that can stand between him and the father, intervene for him, or offer respite from the daily threat of terror, the situation can improve. This child might have a chance of avoiding long term mental illness.
When a child is identified as the problem, then given counseling, the prognosis for meaningful change is very poor if he has to return to the same toxic environment that created the maladaptive behavior to begin with. He might be able to ignore his father, or find a healthy outlet for his hurt feelings, but he’s still being bombarded with negativity. It’s like telling someone to bathe in a mud puddle and then expecting them to get clean.
We Need Healthy Leadership
What we need is healthy leadership. Healthy parents have to lead the family. Businesses need healthy bosses. Healthy government officials have to lead in government. What we have instead is a lot of focus on meeting goals, deadlines, and profit margins. If the basics get done, to hell with the people and the methods.
This doesn’t work. It’s created a society on pills that were supposed to manage symptoms so that people could continue to live in their toxic systems. Only the pills aren’t working. And the systems are just getting more and more toxic. The blind are leading the blind.
We Need Safe Communities
We just had our quarterly gathering, and we were talking about how when we were kids, we would get on our bikes and be miles away from home. Our parents had no idea where we were and would probably kill us if they knew.
But it was safe.
It was safe because there was a social contract that children were sacred. Adults were protectors. And we all looked out for each other. If an adult saw something wrong happening, they’d step in and stop it. They’d tell your parents, and their authority was respected.
Today, we all live in isolation. Nobody goes outside. Nobody knows who their neighbors are. And God forbid you should correct a child! Their parents might come over and curse you out for your trouble.
Nobody had their face in their phone because we didn’t have cell phones. We actually looked at each other and talked to each other. Relationships weren’t based upon what you could get from each other. They were based upon shared interests, good company, and the fact that we’re all earthlings sharing this space and time together.
Where To Go From Here
If you are like me and yearn for a different world, be the change. “Adopt” someone who needs help. Look out for them. Ask how they are doing. Give them a safe space to be who they are without any expectation that they be different.
If you need that, find it. Support it. Participate in it. Live it in your own life. Be the example to someone else for how life could be for all of us. Accept it when it’s offered to you.
Every person is a creation being who is adding a little spice to the pot. What we collectively create is the environment we all live in. We can’t blame “sick” people for being sick if we are the architect of the sickness. Mental illness isn’t a personal problem. It’s a social one. Let’s change it together.